Canine Leptospirosis is a fact of life in the Top End. It is a disease that is entrenched as one of our wet season dramas, not because it is common, but because it is almost always fatal.
With the wet season now here, it is important to make sure that your dog is up to date with their Leptospirosis vaccinations. Two vaccinations 3-6 weeks apart are required initially (puppies have this at their 2nd and 3rd puppy vaccinations at approximately 12 and 16 weeks of age), and a booster is recommended every 6 months to maintain immunity.
There are many different strains of Leptospirosis in Australia, and different strains will be vaccinated for in different areas. The strain we vaccinate for in Darwin is called Leptospirosis Australis. There is no cross protection between the different Leptospirosis vaccinations, so if your pet has been vaccinated for a different strain of Leptospirosis elsewhere, they will still need to be vaccinated for Leptospirosis Australis.
'Lepto' (as it is called) occurs when a dog drinks water contaminated by urine from infected rats, mice, or even native marsupials. Warm weather and swampy conditions facilitate transmission. The disease can be transmitted to humans, although, so far, no direct dog-to-human transmission has been suspected (i.e. humans try to avoid water contaminated by dog urine!)
Clinical signs in dogs include lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhoea, usually associated with a fever. Jaundiced (yellow) gums are common. The onset of signs is usually sudden and the course of the disease is dramatic, with dogs dying within a few days.
For approximately 8 years now we have had an unregistered vaccine available that provides 6 months protection for Leptospirosis Australis . The most common side effect that we see with the 'Lepto' vaccination is a small lump at the injection site, this generally resolves within a couple of weeks. More serious side effects are very rare, and good protection is provided by the vaccine.
If you are not sure if your dog is up to date with their 'Lepto' vaccinations, please give the clinic a call and one of our friendly nurses will check for you!